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Introducing the world's first contactless underwater ultrasound scanner: The Duo-Scan: Go Oceanic

“Innovation”, “Partnership” and “Learning” – the values at the heart of everything we do

IMV imaging, previously known as BCF Technology and Echo Control Media (ECM), were established over 35 years ago, with a commitment to helping our customers improve animal care through the invention, development and provision of diagnostic imaging equipment for veterinary and livestock use.

To fulfil this commitment, our business culture, behaviours and actions stem from a strong set of core values; “Innovation”, “Partnership”, and “Learning”, putting our customers and their needs at the heart of everything we do.

Recently, IMV imaging once again demonstrated their commitment to these core values and their customers with a project in partnership with The Manta Trust, The University of Cambridge, Vetsonic and Six Senses Laamu. 

As a key customer and distributor of IMV imaging for over 30 years, Vetsonic were keen to involve the team at IMV with an interesting and exciting new project that would take our equipment to new depths. The challenge, which would mean doing something that had never been done before, was to develop an ultrasound scanner that was portable, contactless, fully waterproof and that could be submerged under water to depths of 30 metres. Ultrasound electronics had never been taken to such depths before, but our team relished the challenge and got to work.

The Project

The development of an ultrasound scanner that could be taken to depths of 30 metres would play a key part in a conservation project focusing on manta rays. Vetsonic were working with Six Senses Laamu in the Maldives and knowing the experience, expertise and reliability of IMV imaging, brought them on board to play their part.

Manta Ray Conservation

Reef Manta Rays are of conservation concern (listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species), largely due to threats from fishing. With little known about the reproductive cycle of this species, conservationists found it difficult to ascertain accurate data around conservation status. The ability to use ultrasound to scan at such depths, would provide vital information and insights relating to the gestation period, assessment of body condition and embryonic development in Manta Rays and other marine animals.

Use of ultrasonography with marine animals

Ultrasonography has been used with captive marine mammals, sea turtles, stingrays, sharks and bony fish for a variety of applications including sex determination, clinical diagnosis and observation of embryonic development. However, this requires the animal to be removed from the water (at least part way) causing some unnecessary distress to the animal. In 2012, a pregnant Reef Manta Ray (Mobula alfredii) was scanned at the surface at the Okinawa Churami Aquarium in Japan, which revealed images of her embryo. 

Scanning in the wild

Attempts have been made to use ultrasonography to scan wild animals while keeping them in the water. This involved SCUBA divers taking large, conventional scanners underwater in waterproof housings with trailing cables attached to bulky viewing screens.

Some of these attempts focused on wild Manta Rays as the target species, however these were oceanic Manta Rays, the larger and more docile cousins of Reef Manta Rays; in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico (Whale Shark Mexico) and Isla de la Plata, Ecuador (Latham Oceanic Manta Alliance).

In line with the core value of “Innovation”, IMV imaging were already developing a new range of wireless, splash proof ultrasound scanners before being approached about the Manta Ray project.

IMV imaging’s “Go” range of products, which includes the Easi-Scan: Go developed for the bovine market and the Duo-Scan: Go for the swine market, ticked the wireless and splash proof boxes as well as being able to communicate between the transducer (scanner) and viewing device (smartphone) using SoundLink™ wireless technology. As these products already had the majority of features and technology required to meet the scanner criteria for the project, the team started to look at how these could be developed further to work at 30 metres under water.

After assessing both the Easi-Scan: Go and the Duo-Scan: Go, it was determined that the Duo-Scan: Go would best fit the environment and requirements. Our engineering team spent many months developing the Duo-Scan: Go product further to ensure it was fully waterproof and that a good quality image could be obtained underwater, taking into consideration the underwater currents and challenges. Some adaptations were made to the scanner to cope with the underwater pressure and a rig was developed to hold the scanner and the viewing device together to allow the marine biologists to swim and scan the Manta Rays with ease.

And so, the Duo-Scan: Go Oceanic was born.

Since the initial conversation with Vetsonic in 2016, the Duo-Scan: Go has gone through full development and undergone field tests with wild Reef Manta Rays. The work was carried out in collaboration with the Manta Trust, Vetsonic (UK) Ltd and Six Senses Laamu, a five -star resort in the Maldives with a nearby resident Reef Manta Ray (Mobula alfredi) population.

Guy Stevens, Co -Founder and Chief Executive of the Manta Trust commented “successfully scanning the often skittish reef manta rays was no small feat. We started out scanning oranges and sea cucumbers, not the liveliest targets, and had to work our way up to approaching the manta rays.” Dr Stevens commented that while the project began with none of the team knowing whether scanning reef manta rays would even be possible, what was achieved was beyond what they could have hoped for. Not only have we managed to scan reef manta ray and prove that this contactless technology works, we were also able to obtain the first ever scans of wild reef manta ray that were pregnant and not pregnant.”

Through committing to our core values of Innovation, Partnership and Learning, IMV imaging have now made what we thought was impossible, possible and we are delighted to introduce

The world’s first contactless underwater ultrasound scanner:  The Duo-Scan: Go Oceanic

Watch our feature video on the full project.

Further help

At IMV imaging we are dedicated to providing the best equipment, advice, learning, customer care and technical support.

If you have an upcoming research project which could benefit from the use of an underwater, wireless ultrasound scanner get in touch and we'll be happy to advise how we can help.

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